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Family Matters: Relatices at War (Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project)

The Vila Family

The phrase “brothers in arms” takes on new meaning when considering the situation of the Vila family. Hailing from West Tampa, Florida, the Vila children numbered fourteen: seven brothers and seven sisters. All seven brothers joined the armed forces, and their time in the military spans multiple decades, conflicts, and service branches. Joe, the oldest, enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17, immediately following Pearl Harbor. He brought his 16-year-old brother Willie along with him, and both fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Hector wanted to be just like his older brothers, so he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950. Robert opted for the Navy, enlisting in 1952, and kid brother Denio was drafted into the Army in 1960. Two additional brothers, Wilfredo and Tony, also served, though VHP does not possess their collections. In 2005, a small park in Tampa was named the Vila Brothers Park in honor of the brothers’ legacy of service.
Image of Denio Vila

"We never knew where we were going, where we were gonna be."(Video interview, 12:28)

Image of Hector Vila

"My heart dropped to the floor."(Video interview, 11:10)

Image of Joe Vila

"Everybody thinks they can win war but it’s not true. Both sides lose." (Video interview, 27:16)

Image of Robert Vila

"I was happy to be home after four years." (Video interview, 11:48)

Image of Willie Vila

"He said, ‘Where he goes, I go.’" (Video interview, 6:15)

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  February 7, 2020
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